Iain Henderson ready for huge physical test up front as Ulster meet Munster

Ulster's Iain Henderson
Ulster's Iain Henderson

As with all Irish derbies there will be plenty of interesting match ups when Ulster and Munster clash on Saturday afternoon but one of the key battles could come at blindside flanker.

Iain Henderson has been a revelation since returning from injury in January adding another Six Nations medal to his collection and helping Ulster to the PRO12 semi-final while Munster’s Peter O’Mahony was one of Ireland’s unsung heroes in the championship.

“This interpro series is massive and it gives the Irish coaches a one on one battle for positions,” said Henderson.

“However I don’t think Joe (Schmidt) will take it as a clear indicator, but it will give him a good idea of how people front up on big occasions when it comes to the crunch,” said Henderson.

The former Queen’s loose forward has played for Ulster at blindside flanker but has been used as second row cover by Ireland and he is just happy to play anywhere.

“I do like playing in the back row and I have enjoyed the last couple of Inter-pro games.

“However I have moved into the second row in those games just to keep me on top of things and not to forget how to play it, but I do prefer playing in the back row at the minute.

“I think with being young versatility is adding to what I can give to the squad.

“In the Six Nations I was on the bench covering second and back row. I was happy to get as much game time and experience at a high level in whatever position possible. Maybe settle do into one position in a few years’ time.”

Henderson has been tipped as Paul O’Connell’s successor in the Irish panel and will come up against the Irish captain in the Kingspan shootout for a home semi-final.

“Paul’s game is all around work rate, intensity and accuracy. I know that is what he brings from playing against and with him and him captaining me, “ highlighted Henderson.

“All we can do is to try and match and out do it!

“We know he loves the set piece and he will have Munster’s lineout working exceptionally well and we have to make sure we do extra home work on that and try to pre-empt what they are going to do and hope our lineout works well.

“We also know Paul will be looking to maul a lot as Munster love to do. We need to make sure we front up with our physicality and dominate that and if we dominate the set piece we can concentrate on our work rate around the field.

“If we do those two things there is no reason why we can turn them over,” added the popular Ulster figure.

Henderson paid tribute to his back row colleague Chris Henry.

“Chad (Chris) is massive in the squad not just playing but just someone to have around the whole training and match day. It’s an added bonus, people might say he is not such a fancy player but the work he does around the pitch.

“I don’t think it is a coincidence the form Ulster have hit since he has come back, we are definitely a better team when Chris and Rory Best are playing,

“Rory is another one who does a lot of unseen work and those two doing the hard yards makes it easier for a wee gapto open up for others.”